doubt noun – a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
par-a- ble noun – a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospel.
While this play was originally known by its much simpler title, Doubt, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, John Patrick Shanley, later expanded it to what we now know it as. I find this rather telling. To me, this play is not a celebration of doubt, nor do I see it as a criticism of the church, even though it may be set during what was later revealed to be a very dark time for the 20 th century institution*.
Rather, this play, like the great parables of the Bible, is a simple story meant to explore what happens when uncertainty enters our lives. How do we react: emotionally, intellectually, relationally, spiritually?
I know from my own experience that when uncertainty, or doubt, sets in, life can be a very unsettling, frustrating experience. I panic, I rail against God (why are you letting this happen?!), I search for simple answers or that SECRET FORMULA that will quickly restore my life to tranquil equilibrium.
All of this out of fear. And fear can be a terrible motivator. We often say that it’s through the difficult times that we grow the most, and yet ironically, we tend to avoid these challenging times like the plague. Rather than embracing the uncertainty and working through a season of ‘doubt’, we bounce off it. As I get older, though I often revert to old reactions, I’m learning to see these times as opportunities to learn more about God, myself and the people around me.
With this production, if we as a production team have done our job well, you will leave the theatre with a certain degree of uncertainty. Did Sister Aloysius act correctly? Is Father Flynn guilty? What is the condition of Sister Aloysius’ faith? What motivated her actions? Fun questions to explore for sure but I encourage you not to be sidetracked by what I consider the ‘rabbit holes’ of the play. I don’t believe arriving at final answers to these questions is really the point. Observing and learning how we react in the face of uncertainty is. Embracing the uncertainty and exploring it with an eye towards love, faith, patience and openness may just lead to some unexpected and positive rewards.
I believe exploring these important themes is what makes this play such a powerful and entertaining theatre experience, one that lasts long after the curtain has fallen. It’s also why this award-winning play is such a fitting part of our 2017/2018 “Mysteries of Life” theatre season.
Please, enjoy this simple parable. May it be both an encouragement to you and a challenge to you. May it calm your fears as you rest in the knowledge that ‘even in your isolation, you are not alone.’